home heating warningThe U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the U.S. Fire Administration issued an alert today on potential home heating dangers and how to avoid them, as more snow blankets the Midwest and is forecast to hit the East Coast next.

The safety alert comes after a massive propane recall this morning that included a warning of explosion risk.

An average of 33,300 fires and 180 deaths per year from 2005 to 2007 are attributed to home heating accidents. The number of home fires spikes in winter, with cooking and home heating the leading culprits, the CPSC said. The number of carbon monoxide deaths--mostly connected with heating systems and portable generators--has risen to an average of 184 per year in 2005 through 2007, up from 122 deaths per year in 1999 to 2001.The CPSC said that any fuel-burning appliance in a home, including furnaces and fireplaces, are potential carbon monoxide sources. The agencies urged consumers to make sure homes have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that work and contain fresh batteries.

The agencies gave the following safety tips:
  • Place space heaters on flat and level bare floors, not on rugs or carpets, and at least three feet away from bedding, drapes, furniture and other potentially flammable objects. Keep the heater out of the way of foot traffic, children and pets.
  • Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or near anyone sleeping. Turn it off when you leave the room.
  • Never use gasoline in a kerosene space heater.
  • Get fireplace flues and chimneys inspected each year for leaks and blocks from creosote.
  • Open the fireplace damper before lighting a fire, and keep it open until the ashes are cool--it may prevent build-up of poisonous gases inside the home.
  • Store ashes in a fire-resistant container with a lid. Keep the container outdoors and away from combustibles. Dispose of ashes carefully, away from anything that could catch fire.
  • Schedule a yearly professional inspection of all fuel-burning home heating systems, including furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, wood stoves, water heaters, chimneys, flues and vents.
  • Never use a portable gasoline-powered generator in an enclosed space, like a garage or shed.
  • Keep portable generators as far away from your home and your neighbors' homes as possible.
  • When purchasing a space heater, ask if the heater has been safety-certified. A certified heater will be marked as one. An unvented gas space heater that meets current standards will shut off if oxygen levels fall too low.
  • Do not use portable propane space heaters indoors or in any confined space, unless they are designed specifically for indoor use.
  • Never use gas or electric stoves to heat a home.

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